The Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA -- pronounced "karma") is an interdisciplinary center at Stanford University dedicated to artistic and technical innovation at the intersection of music and technology. We are a place where musicians, engineers, computer scientists, designers, and researchers in HCI and psychology get together to develop technologies and make art. In recent years, the question of how we interact physically with electronic music technologies has fostered a growing new area of research that we call Physical Interaction Design for Music. We emphasize practice-based research, using DIY physical prototying with low-cost and open source tools to develop new ways of making and interacting with sound. At the Maker Faire, we will demonstrate the low-cost hardware prototyping kits and our customized open source Linux software distribution that we use to develop new sonic interactions, as well as some exciting projects that have been developed using these tools. Below you will find photos and descriptions of the tools and projects we will demonstrate.
Planet CCRMA at Home is a collection of open source programs that you can add to a computer running Fedora Linux to transform it into an audio/multi-media workstation with a low-latency kernel, current audio drivers and a nice set of music, midi, audio and video applications (with an emphasis on real-time performance). It replicates most of the Linux environment we have been using for years here at CCRMA for our daily work in audio and computer music production and research. Planet CCRMA is easy to install and maintain, and can be upgraded from our repository over the web. Bootable CD and DVD install images are also available. This software is free.
Ardour - Multitrack Sound Editor
Hydrogen - Drum Sequencer
Pd, Jack and Jaaa - Real-time audio tools
In our courses, we use a prototyping kit based on Atmel AVR microcontrollers, with Pascal Stang's AVRmini at the core. To the AVRmini, we attach an I2C LCD display, solderless breadboard strips, a loudspeaker and sometimes a MIDI jack. In student lab exercises and for prototyping, we hook up sensor circuits on the breadboard and send control signals to a Linux PC over USB, serial, MIDI or Ethernet in order to control open source real-time sound synthesis and processing software. These prototypes are then often built into larger-scale music and interactive sound art projects like the ones below that we will demonstrate at the Maker Faire.
The Feedback Piano was originally built to make the sound design for a production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. It is a computer-controlled feedback loop which engages the strings as a sort of resonant memory. Any sound made in its vicinity will hang sustained in the air as it is slowly transformed. Its sound is at once familiar and alien, a fitting backdrop for the surreal world inhabited by these characters.
The Mutha Rubboard is a musical controller based on the rubboard, washboard or frottoir metaphor commonly used in the Zydeco music genre of South Louisiana. It is not only a metamorphosis of a traditional instrument, but a modern bridge of exploration into a rich musical heritage. It uses capacitive and piezo sensing technology to output MIDI and raw audio data.
This new controller reads the key placement in two parallel planes by using radio capacitive sensing circuitry expanding greatly on the standard corrugated metal playing surface. The percussive output normally associated with the rubboard is captured through piezo contact sensors mounted directly on the keys (the playing implements). Additionally, mode functionality is controlled by discrete switching on the keys.
This new instrument is meant to be easily played by both experienced players and those new to the rubboard. It lends itself to an expressive freedom by placing the control surface on the chest and allowing the hands to move uninhibited about it or by playing it in the usual way, preserving its musical heritage.
The Swing Set is a simple idea: a set of pendulums which control musical parameters. The dynamics of the pendulums, with their inherent rhythms and a tendency to conserve energy efficiently, allow musician to play them in several modes; the player can respect the dynamics, or alter them according to his will. When controlled with a computer, this allows for a surprisingly playable musical instrument.
Many digital interfaces choose power and flexibility over ease-of-use and intelligibility. Moreover, many of them are overwhelmed by metaphors from the computing world. Our goal with the Swing Set was to produce a set of controllers which are immediately intuitive and break away from this pattern. Furthermore, we wanted to present something that had its own tangible physical dynamics; with a pendulum, we were able to capitalize not only on natural resonance and decay, but also the fringe benefits of physical devices, like inherent haptic feedback and visual intelligibility. In order to create compelling musical experiences with the devices, we decided not to limit ourselves to only using the pendulums as controllers: our installation also includes a computer interface where an operator chooses samples, volume levels, and melodic patterns.
Our Swing Set consists of two main devices: the Swing Set proper, which consists of three pendulums, each with a dedicated purpose, and then the Transfer Pendulum, which is a set of two loosely-coupled pendulums dedicated for use as a tangible mixer.